© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum , Russia, June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said on Monday the government will take further steps in response to the leak of government tax plans by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and that the matter could be referred to the Australian Federal Police.
The government, a PwC Australia client, has accused the firm of sharing confidential information about new anti-tax avoidance measures with its corporate customers to win more business in what it has called a major breach of trust.
PwC Australia’s CEO stepped down this month and the firm has said it is “committed to learning for our mistakes”.
“We’ve got Treasury looking at an investigation into what has occurred, and looking at whether criminal charges should be referred to the AFP,” Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Some lawmakers have called for a total ban on granting the auditor more government contracts.
PwC declined comment on Monday.
“I think the PwC experience has been deeply, deeply troubling and we’ve already taken some steps but we will be taking further steps,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers also told ABC Radio in an interview on Monday.
“I will have more to say about how we crack down on this behaviour, which is inexcusable, frankly,” he said.
PwC said this month that former Telstra (OTC:) and Optus CEO Ziggy Switkowski will lead an independent review into the leak and will report his findings and recommendations in September.
The Australian government has announced that allegations of a leak of sensitive tax documents from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) may be referred to the police for further investigation.
The documents, which related to a leak by PwC of some of the nation’s multi-billion dollar tax accounts, showed an annual tax gap – the difference between what the government collects and the amount it is owed – of around $11.8 billion.
The Minister for Financial Services, Stuart Robert, said he had asked his department to look into the matter, and if any breaches of security have occurred, the responsible parties will need to be held to account.
The documents, which were obtained by The Guardian Australia, contained detailed information about the private tax affairs of hundreds of corporations, including some of the largest companies in the world.
Although PwC has apologised for the leak, the company has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that the documents were accessed without their knowledge or permission.
However, the government has expressed concern over the incident and warned that any security breaches of this type would be taken seriously.
“We will not tolerate any breaches of data security, and will look into this case thoroughly,” Mr Robert said.
The incident marks yet another serious breach of data security in Australia, and has prompted the government to further enhance its efforts to protect sensitive information.
“We are already working on improving our IT systems and boosting our data security provisions,” Mr Robert said.
The government has also said it will work with PwC to ensure that any future data breaches are prevented.
This case serves as a reminder of the need for organisations to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of their data.